Federal Courts and the Imaginary Constitution
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
It’s been a tough summer for social conservatives, thanks to our federal courts. From gay rights to affirmative action to Boy Scouts to the Ten Commandments, federal courts recently have issued rulings that conflict with both the Constitution and overwhelming public sentiment. Conservatives and libertarians who once viewed the judiciary as the final bulwark against government tyranny must now accept that no branch of government even remotely performs its constitutional role.
The practice of judicial activism — legislating from the bench — is now standard for many federal judges. They dismiss the doctrine of strict construction as hopelessly outdated, instead treating the Constitution as fluid and malleable to create a desired outcome in any given case. For judges who see themselves as social activists, their vision of justice is more important than the letter of the laws they are sworn to interpret and uphold. With the federal judiciary focused more on promoting a social agenda than upholding the rule of law, Americans find themselves increasingly governed by men they did not elect and cannot remove from office.
Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court in June. The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment right to privacy. Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states’ rights — rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.
Similarly, a federal court judge in San Diego recently ordered that city to evict the Boy Scouts from a camp they have run in a city park since the 1950s. A gay couple, with help from the ACLU, sued the city claiming the Scouts’ presence was a violation of the separation of church and state. The judge agreed, ruling that the Scouts are in essence a religious organization because they mention God in their recited oath. Never mind that the land, once privately owned, had been donated to the city for the express purpose of establishing a Scout camp. Never mind that the Scouts have made millions of dollars worth of improvements to the land. The real tragedy is that our founders did not intend a separation of church and state, and never envisioned a rigidly secular public life for America. They simply wanted to prevent Congress from establishing a state religion, as England had. The First amendment says Congress shall make no law — a phrase that cannot possibly be interpreted to apply to the city of San Diego. But the phony activist separation doctrine leads to perverse outcomes like the eviction of Boy Scouts from city parks.
These are but two recent examples. There are many more, including the case of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was ordered by a federal court to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama courthouse property.
The political left increasingly uses the federal judiciary to do in court what it cannot do at the ballot box: advance an activist, secular, multicultural political agenda of which most Americans disapprove. This is why federal legal precedents in so many areas do not reflect the consensus of either federal or state legislators. Whether it’s gun rights, abortion, taxes, racial quotas, environmental regulations, gay marriage, or religion, federal jurists are way out of touch with the American people. As a society we should reconsider the wisdom of lifetime tenure for federal judges, while Congress and the President should remember that the Supreme Court is supreme only over other federal courts — not over the other branches of government. It’s time for the executive and legislative branches to show some backbone, appoint judges who follow the Constitution, and remove those who do not.
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.